While the big win of the German Pirate Party in Berlin was big news, reported even by the New York Times (see also “Boarding Berlin“), yesterday’s win in the state of Saarland had already been expected and thus received less international attention. However, the success is remarkable. With 7,4 percent of the votes, the Pirate Party will receive twice as many seats in Saarland’s state parliament than the Greens. Even more importantly, the Saarland results refute two common explanations of the Berlin victory. First, the success in Berlin was no one shot wonder. Second, Pirates can also win in more rural areas outside of city states .

As a result, media commentators turned to another narrative, attributing the Pirate Party’s success mainly to collecting protest votes. I think this is wrong. While protest does play a role, several indicators suggest that this is not the dominant one.

Strong membership base: Fueled by local election successes, the German Pirate Party reports growing membership numbers all over the country (see Figure below). However, becoming a member can be interpreted as a sign of identification with an organization and differs from mere protest that is directed against the so-called “established parties”.

Membership trend of the German Pirate Party (Source: http://wiki.piratenpartei.de/Mitglieder)

Success among young voters: Similar to Berlin, nearly one quarter of the first time voters (23%) gave their vote to the Pirate party. The sharp generational divide (see Figure below) indicates that other reasons than protest are more important for the Pirate Party’s success. At least, the Internet generation or digital native arguments seem more convincing than the protest argument.

Pirate Party voters by age group (Source: http://wahlarchiv.tagesschau.de)

Transnational dimension: As mentioned several times on this blog (see, for example, “Pirate Party Win in Berlin: Transnational Implications?“), the German Pirate Party can only be understood in the context of several transnational movements. Together with Kirsten Gollatz, I have written a book chapter on the transnational dimension of the Pirate Party’s success, which will appear soon in the German volume “Unter Piraten” edited by fellow research blogger Christoph Bieber and Claus Leggewie. We will present some of the data we collected for this chapter in a series on this blog soon.